Sometimes it takes a crisis to rouse us from a spiritual stupor. Most of us probably know someone who has turned back to the Lord when a cancer scare, a job loss, a bankruptcy, or some other tragedy has driven them to their knees. Many of us can testify that we returned to God and His Word only when we hit rock bottom or otherwise encountered a deadly threat of some kind.
Mordecai and Esther, we see in today’s passage, were moved to take action when a crisis for the Jews arose in fifth-century BC Persia. We have noted how their willingness to marry Esther off to a pagan king indicated that these two Jews were not the most devout of individuals (Est. 2). But when Haman the Agagite purposed to destroy the Jews because he believed Mordecai was not showing him sufficient honor, things changed. Mordecai immediately began publicly mourning the apparent fate of his people (4:1–3). Previously, he showed no desire to be identified as a Jew—as one of the servants of the God of Israel. But in that moment of crisis, he revealed his Jewishness and identified with the people of the one true creator God.
Upon hearing of Mordecai’s public display of grief, Esther sent some of her servants to inquire about the problem. Apparently, she had not heard of Haman’s decree calling for the extermination of the Jews (vv. 4–5). Mordecai explained the situation, and clearly Esther understood that he wanted her to intercede on the Jews’ behalf with the king of Persia. Otherwise, she would not have told her cousin that going before the king without being summoned was to risk death (vv. 6–11).
Mordecai, seeing that Esther feared for her life, warned her that failing to help the Jews would not preserve her. The Jews would be delivered regardless of whether she assisted her people, but a failure to stand up for them would cause her own destruction. And although Mordecai could not read the hand of God’s providence, he suggested that Esther might have been put on the throne, in the Lord’s sovereign plan, to save the Jews (vv. 12–14; but note that Mordecai did not mention God’s name specifically).
Esther had to make a decision: either try to help the Jews and possibly die, or fail to intercede and certainly come to an end. Helping her people was the only viable option (vv. 15–17).